It’s easy to find fault with this book. The protagonist’s coincidental access to and quick grasp of poetry. His similarity to James Bond in that every man wants to be him and every woman – and of course they are beautiful – wants to be with him. There are too many close calls. It strains credibility.
Though the external aspects of this novel can be problematic (except for the scenery – here Heller knows his stuff), it is Heller’s grasp of the interior of Jim Stegner’s mind (he’s the protagonist, an artist) that is most compelling. He nails the way men think, especially when it comes to dealing with anger and the past. Those sections were more than enough to overcome the broad strokes in other sections.
In addition to the scenery, Heller is adept at describing things people do – the painting (which could have been quite clumsy) and fishing, for example.
So don’t read it for plot. Read it for the interior monologue and the beauty of New Mexico.